Déjà vu: Rwanda suffers another UK aid freeze

By Jenny Lei Ravelo 03 December 2012

U.K. Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening has decided not to release $33.6 million in general budget support to Rwanda due this month. Photo by: Russell Watkins / DfID

Many have questioned Andrew Mitchell’s decision to reinstate direct budget support to Rwanda in September. Now, after a series of public hearings and the release of a new U.N. report, his successor has decided to again freeze aid to the African country.

U.K. Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening has decided not to release 21 million pounds ($33.6 million) in general budget support to Rwanda due this month. The decision, announced Friday (Nov. 30), was based on the Rwandan government’s alleged failure to adhere to the “principles” laid out in both governments’ memorandum of understanding.

Among the “shared commitments” in the memorandum is the promotion of “peace and stability in the Great Lakes Region, and across other regions in Africa.” Greening and Foreign Secretary William Hague, however, have found evidence presented by a U.N. group of experts on Rwanda’s involvement with rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to be “credible and compelling.”

“These allegations will necessarily be a key factor in future aid decisions to the Government of Rwanda,” they said in a joint statement.

It is not clear if Greening’s decision to suspend aid to Rwanda anew was meant to temper criticism of the government’s foreign aid spending. But it did lead to more questions on U.K. aid to other countries that are not faring very well on corruption and human rights.

The United Kingdom’s aid budget for Pakistan and Ethiopia this year exceeds 250 million pounds, dwarfing Rwanda’s 75 million pounds. This is despite both countries performing poorly on Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index, according to The FactCheck Blog. The United Kingdom, however, has suspended direct budget support to the government of Uganda last month for alleged misuse of funds.

In addition, the blog notes “the specific allegation levelled against Rwanda … has also been made against other recipients of aid,” such as Ethiopia and Pakistan. And Ed West of The Telegraph raised the question: “If we can take Rwanda to task for its Congolese adventures, what about Pakistan?”

It is not clear if the United Kingdom has any plans of diverting the aid to other channels. Malcolm Bruce, chairman of the international development committee, has suggested the United Kingdom should explore “alternative channels” to deliver aid to Rwanda.

On the same day Greening disclosed the aid suspension, the United Kingdom announced 18 million pounds as support for Congo. The money is to address “immediate humanitarian needs” in the country, such as food aid, household items, education and clean water.

Read more:

Read more development aid news online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders — emailed to you FREE every business day.

About the author

Jenny lei ravelo 400x400
Jenny Lei Ravelo@JennyLeiRavelo

Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex senior reporter based in Manila. Since 2011, she has covered a wide range of development and humanitarian aid issues, from leadership and policy changes at DfID to the logistical and security impediments faced by international and local aid responders in disaster-prone and conflict-affected countries in Africa and Asia. Her interests include global health and the analysis of aid challenges and trends in sub-Saharan Africa.

Join the Discussion